No-go zone: Habitat map of Solitary Islands Marine Park. A zoning plan for the park has been released for public comment.
No-go zone: Habitat map of Solitary Islands Marine Park. A zoning plan for the park has been released for public comment.

Opinions divided on zone changes

PROPOSED changes to zonings in the Solitary Islands Marine Park have created a sharp divide between the commercial fishing industry and conservation groups.

Seafood industry representatives claim the proposed changes, which include a 66 per cent increase in the sanctuary zones and an increase in areas declared out of bounds for commercial fishers, will result in substantial job losses, but the Nature Conservation Council claims the changes would make a positive move towards an improved balance between conservation, recreation and fishing in the Solitary Island.

Coffs Harbour Fishermen’s Co-operative chairman Russell Kerr said the phasing out of prawn trawling within two years would be a devastating blow to the region’s ability to supply seafood.

“Put simply, the proposed changes will mean that the market will fail to keep up with the demand for fresh Australian seafood vital to the health of the population,” he said.

“In addition to the demise of the much sought after Coffs Harbour eastern king prawns, the supply of several other species will be reduced including flathead, eastern school whiting, octopus, cuttlefish, striped trumpeter and squid.

“Availability of fresh seafood would be eliminated at certain times of the year, particularly the summer months when prawn trawlers pursue prawns and other species in shallower water.”

Nature Conservation Council acting chief executive officer Haydn Washington, however, said the expanded sanctuary area would give the more than 530 species of marine creatures found in the marine park a better chance of survival.

“Sanctuary zones are a wonderful haven where they can rest and reproduce in safety,” he said.

“The International Union for the Conservation of Nature recommends at least 20-30 per cent of all marine waters worldwide should be fully protected as sanctuaries and the draft zoning plan is an important step towards the sustainability of the marine habitat around the Solitary Islands.

“The Nature Conservation Council would also like to see the draft zoning plan complemented by the introduction of more robust monitoring of fish caught in the area.”

Mr Kerr said seafood consumers would see a decline in availability of fresh Australian prawns.

He said the co-operative supplied 22 per cent of the eastern king prawns to the Sydney Fish Market.

He said the most recent NSW Government science confirmed well managed sustainable fisheries did not harm the environment and were in fact beneficial to biodiversity.

“All of the fisheries operating in the areas in question have been through a range of assessments to prove their sustainability including an environmental impact study, a fisheries management strategy and a number of assessments under the Commonwealth’s Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act – an act where the benchmarks are always rising.”

He urged anyone with concerns about the proposals to email the Premier Kristina Keneally.



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